It was early 1942. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor just weeks before, America had been drawn swiftly into World War II. Life, as Americans knew it, was changing fast.
Soldiers, from large cities and small towns alike, volunteered to defend their country. But World War II wasn’t just fought on the front lines; it was also fought by the millions of people behind those on the front lines. It was an era of “making do” with what you had because everything from food to clothing to manufactured goods was needed to support the war effort.
People gave up wedding rings, tires, and even gold teeth to equip the effort.
Automobile manufacturers ceased manufacturing cars and commercial trucks beginning in February 1942, and did not resume until the fall of 1945.
The leaders of those companies made massive shifts, retooling quickly to produce planes, tanks, and military vehicles. Railroads joined the effort, shipping supplies for the front lines and returning injured troops back to their big cities and small towns.
The whole country made a shift, and the war was won. It took dedication, sacrifice, ingenuity, and concerted, massive effort.
A New Battle and a Different Shift
In March of 2020, a different kind of war was declared – this time, on an enemy invisible to the naked eye. Just as before, everyone was being called upon to do their part. The speed and scope of change has been unprecedented.
As John Maxwell so wisely said in his book, Leadershift, “Fast is faster, and forward is shorter.”
Wise leaders very quickly began to make shifts.
Breweries retooled to manufacture hand sanitizer. Other companies began to manufacture ventilators, face masks, and protective gear. Drug companies and scientists turned their focus on this unseen enemy and very quickly created breakthrough testing. Restaurateurs and grocery stores partnered with transportation companies to deliver meals and groceries. Teachers learned to teach in online classrooms, and small businesses shifted focus to new ways of serving their clients.
Once again, business leaders are rising to the challenge and making necessary shifts in how they think and operate their businesses.
But not all leaders have made the shift. Countless thousands are still in the stage of shock and disbelief, while others are doing all they can just to stabilize the massive cash outflow combined with no current inflow.
How can you be a leader who makes the shifts necessary to survive – and even thrive – through the crisis?
1. Watch the visionaries.
There are some leaders who are natural visionaries. Like an expert truck driver, they are somehow able to “see” ahead of the headlights. These are the kind of people who don’t operate in the here and now. They see future needs, desires, and possibilities most others cannot see. Learn who the visionaries are in your field and listen to their thoughts and ideas. Read what they read. Study what they study. This will help you begin to see what they see.
2. Have an accountability partner.
Especially in these days of social distancing and instantly remote workforces, it is important for leaders to have an accountability partner. A good accountability partner will help you stay on track, weigh new opportunities and possibilities, and encourage you as you lead during a difficult time.
3. Look for opportunities outside your comfort zone, but within your strengths and branding zone.
If you operate a restaurant, for example, determine how you can partner with others in your community to feed local medical staff, as some restaurateurs have done. This would not be the time for you to build a production facility for making face masks; but you can modify your food operations in such a way as to serve the needs of those on the medical front line while also keeping your staff employed.
4. Look for ways to retool and fill a need.
If the automobile manufacturers had continued on with production during the war years, there would have been two outcomes: (1) A surplus of vehicles because customers couldn’t buy them, and (2) A shortage of essential needs for the battlefront. By simply assessing needs and retooling, they were able to play a key role in supporting the troops on the front lines, while also gainfully employing those on the homefront.
5. Engage a Leadershift mindset.
Change isn’t new, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Take some time to read John’s book (Leadershift). It will help you maintain good habits and principles, while also exercising the flexibility needed to lead in today’s world.
For more resources on Leading through Crisis, click here to learn about the Maxwell Method of Communications Impact Report.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.